Don’t Mess With The Elderly!

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

The following story is true. No details have been changed. Names are not changed to protect the innocent nor the guilty. What follows may shock you, disgust you, and quite possibly change your perception on what you thought before.

I will first start off by setting up the story by telling you that at the apartment complex in which I live, is a lovely place. I have been told by so many people who have visited here that its scenary is totally breathtaking and serene. As for myself, I enjoy living in this place.

Only the physically disabled, retired, and elderly can apply. And since I am one of the physically disabled, I qualify to live here. I have grown to know my neighbors in a delightful sense of companionship and have spent many days and weeks including myself with them in their activities which happens to be on the calendar of events.

With that said, there is one day in which I fear. Food Pantry Day. It happens once a month for three hours on one day, and a full hour on another day. The bulk of the residents come to the community room to receive their food items on the day in which time is of the majority. That’s when I receive my items as well.

But it has been something of a disaster in recent months. It was only about two years ago that I had decided to volunteer to help in any way that I could, in order to keep chaos from happening. Clearly, things have gotten better but its definitely not a case that we’re out of the woods yet. To take a quote from the movie, “The Antichrist”…. “chaos reigns.”

Our usual system had a break down, probably about four months ago it was changed. It had been getting better since I decided to try and help. It became my task to call names from a list in which each resident would sign their name and their apartment number in order to keep a more accurate count in how many people were participating in receiving items from the Food Pantry.

Food Pantry items are actually picked up from a central food bank. The community donates food items and it gets distributed to those in need. I’m not 100% sure on how our complex qualifies to receive these items, but my money is on the fact that we are a non-profit. These donated food items comes to us, and they are distributed to the residents here, for free!

Sounds pretty good, right?

I will say personally that the Food Pantry has come in very useful for me when funds are low during the month. Having that extra collection of food to get me through whatever I need to before I am able to have some money to go to the store again. I cannot complain about the Food Pantry at all. But this is just my rambling. So I digress.

It has been turmoil these last couple of years. When that sign-up sheet gets put out into the community room at 12:30 PM each day of distribution, all hell breaks loose. I am not kidding. These people have pushed, shoved, stepped on (or over) other individuals in order to secure their place on that list as close to #1 as possible, even if that means someone with less mobility and speed gets shoved aside. I have personally witnessed a man getting up from his chair across the room, stepping over chairs and tables to get to the list. Brushing aside people in his path.

Again, let me remind you that this is donated food items from the community. This is nothing like steak, shrimp, glorious food items of luxury. We’re talking bread, canned goods, meat products at times, soups, pasta, and various other food suppliments. There is a nice display of desserts commonly on the table for their selection though. Mainly old doughnuts and other pastries.

They have overcome their own senses and thrown away all shame in order to be able to put their names on that list at the very top so that they are able to receive first choice at what is being offered to them.

I had been the one responsible to put that sign-up sheet on the table for a short time. Whenever I would do that, I would find myself literally surrounded by at least eight people at a time, on all sides of me to the point where I couldn’t even move my wheelchair to get out of the way. I would have to basically cry for help in order for someone to get out of the way so that I could move.

Suggesting that everyone step into an orderly fashion and form a line falls upon deaf ears (whether they are actually hearing impaired or not.) This system also has failed because one person would write the names of several people down before anyone else has a chance to grab a pen. So the first person in line would obviously be #1, but they are also writing down the names of their close friends and neighbors on lines #2-6. Thus, making the person who is actually second in line to be #7.

For sure, this has others in an outcry and they are suddenly calling for a lynching of those guilty. But don’t feel sorry for those who are being left out. Some of them had a strategy of getting into the community room as soon as it opened its doors in the morning and actually sat down and waited for that list to be brought out. So then comes the cries of “I was here first. I was here before this person so I should be before them!”. 

Umm no. That’s not how it works. Whenever your name is  written down on that list, that is your placement and that’s when you will be called. And another thing… if your name is called by me, and you are not in the room or can be found immediately? Your name goes to the bottom of the list. This is has been the structure of the rules and will remain as such.

Not fair? Well, “you gotta be present to win” so to speak.

This system was replaced four months ago. The new system was that each person would write down their apartment number (not their name) on a slip of paper and put it into the basket. Their number is drawn and whenever they are drawn, that is who is first in line, and the next and the next and so on.

It was tricky the first month as people were walking into the community room expecting one procedure and ended up with another. We all had to get used to it. By the second month, it began to show signs of weakness. The same group of people who were just so desperate to be the top of the list, were harassing me to draw their names first as I was the one who had volunteered to help out in the first place. I’ve stood my ground and given no favoritism. Clearly those who are greedy have not been too pleased with it or me. I just ignore them whenever they try to sweet talk me into drawing their number first.

Today though, was a very bold act of avarice and self-importance as I was drawing people’s names as they came out. Those who commonly harass me to draw their numbers first were right on cue. I had called a number out and had handed the slip of paper in so that there would be an accurate  count of who was there and who was not. Suddenly, behind me was someone totally different. Someone who had been bugging me since we had started at 1:04 PM. The four extra minutes was in fact, intentional.

The selfish party had claimed that the person’s name who had been called had given them permission to switch places but clearly they had not.

It was cruel act of selfishness as I understood that while I was handing in the slip of paper, the trading request took place. Yet the person who I had just called didn’t stand a chance in public in front of that many other residents to deny that request. Later I would find out that absolutely NO permission was given at all.

I do not understand the whole entire process of this. As hungry as we might be at this point in the month and eager to receive food items, to go through this is NOT a life or death struggle. Nobody here, including the complex staff will ever allow one of its residents to go hungry. Especially since so much food is being donated and brought in. Even if its something as simple as a few cans of green beans. They will not starve.

All I can honestly say about it all is DON’T MESS WITH THE ELDERLY! You may think they are quiet and frail and kind and sweet and loving. Some of them are. But to underestimate them is definitely foolish.

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